On behalf of the Northwest Folklife Festival, Victory Music, myself and any other concerned cultural entity, I’m proud to announce that the 44th annual Northwest Folklife Festival, featuring a wide world view of the many creative and traditional cultures that come from all over our planet and live right here in the Northwest, will take place at Seattle Center on the 22nd-25th of May.
For you newbies (and we hope there’s a lot of you to add to our veteran Folk lifer’s) this will be an opportunity to become aware of the many diverse and valuable cultures that live, work and celebrate themselves all around us all the time. Since our lives are so cluttered or sheltered that we often don’t realize how close and connected we are there is much education to be had while enjoying so many styles of music, dance, crafts, foods, jamming and so much more. So welcome all; Old, new and in-between to one of the finest and most diverse festivals of culture anywhere! Here’s some of what you’ll fine if you attend this year’s event.
The 2015 Cultural Focus: BEATS, RHYMES & RHYTHMS: Traditional Roots of Today’s Branches
Each year Folklife chooses a particular culture as our focus and this enables the festival and you the public to observe a deeper Knowledge of and connection to a valuable entity in our Northwest community that goes above and beyond what we would ordinarily receive from a mere performance or 2. This wider view includes performances, workshops, lectures, demonstrations and anything else that contribute to the history, value and meaning for the culture, and it has proven to be a valuable part of the festival for entertainment and bringing our regional peoples together in a healthy way, which is why we keep presenting it.
This year the focus on BEATS, RHYMES & RHYTHMS: Traditional Roots of Today’s Branches, will explore the cross-cultural roots of arts expressions from African and Latin countries, the blues, gospel. scat singing and other traditions that have grown into the contemporary cultures of today with specific reference to the traditional roots of Hip Hop. Folklife recognizes that tradition is a living, breathing entity and expands from moment to moment, serving as a guidepost as opposed to a ball and chain.
This allows us to understand that today’s hot item is tomorrow’s tradition and is considered primitive by future generations, who hopefully will respect and learn from it (And let me take this moment to assure all our veteran Folklifers that all the styles you’ve loved in the past 43 years will be at Folklife in abundance. Parent cultures never go away.
They simply make room for their children). We’re proud to be offering our community an opportunity to glean a greater understanding of Hip Hop culture and feel that it will bring us closer together and perhaps alleviate some misunderstandings concerning Hip Hop that mainstream media have perpetuated.
The program which stretches over all 4 days of the festival will tie in the 5 key elements of HIp Hop: Music (DJing), Dance (B-boy and B-girl), storytelling (MCing), Public Art (Graffiti), and Social Awareness, back to the origins of Hip Hop. Among the presentations will be the panel discussions on Intersections In Hip Hop: Miogony, Violence and Homophobia with Maomi Ishisaki and Moni Tep, and Music of the Movement with Steve Sneed, Janet Stecher and Aaron Dixon.
These and others will take place in the JBL Theatre. Musical performances will include a Traditional Roots of Hip Hop Showcase and a Brazil Showcase at the Mural Amphitheatre, a Black Church showcase and Black Magic Noize show at the Vera Project, Women of the Blues at the Fountain Lawn and Parallels In Motion: From the Village to the Streets, in the Bagley Theatre.
The SIFF Film Center partners with us to present 6 films and 3 Q&A sessions over the course of the event. The films will include titles such as Louder Than A Bomb, Sample This and Hip Hop Fellow and Q&A will include subjects such as 50 Next: Seattle Hip Hop Worldwide, which will discuss the possible evolution of the culture as the present styles give way to progress and become the folk music of the future.
Additional treats (among so many more) will offer a performance by Arts Corps Breakin’ Challenge (by Massive Monkees) in the Bagley Theatre, A 20-6 Zulu/UW Ladies Break Show at the Mural Amphitheatre, visual displays such as Graffiti Gallery Exhibit at the International Fountain Pavilion, and Coolout Network Visual Art Display and workshop on the Art of B-Boying and Capoeira Dance in the Armory.
A special addition to these fun times is the Seattle Youth Arts & Lectures Seattle Youth Laureate competition, which is another new event featuring 8 finalists. Folklife is pleased to be a partner w/Arts & Lectures for this program which will happen on Saturday at 1 PM in the Cornish Playhouse. And there’s a lot more of this to be had, as you can find out on May 1st when the entire schedule of events with all days, times and stages will be available on the Website: www.nwfolklife.org.
Even if you’re not a fan of Hip Hop there’s much to be gained simply by becoming aware of this culture and its presence and affect on our greater community. And if you are, then you’ll be entertained while becoming more cognizant of where it all comes from and how you can better relate to it. It’s a win/win all around and can only add to the magic of the annual event.
SO WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR?
A whole lot, that’s what! The only constant is change, and so it is for Folklife. The Back Porch Stage is coming Back after about a 10 year hiatus and will celebrate American Roots w/the Blues, Zydeco, old timer, bluegrass, country, R&B and Indie roots in an intimate setting. During stage down times the beer gardens will have local favorite DJ’s from local radio stations spinning a variety of tunes to keep the energy flowing and the feet tapping. Several of our Native American Tribes will present “Welcome To Our Native Land”, Powwow and Coastal Celebrations, which is an expanded version of a previous presentation.
They will take place at the Space Needle by the John T. Williams Pole off Broad Street and 5th Avenue on Sunday from 11 AM-7 PM featuring the Duwamish Tribe and on Monday from Noon-7 PM featuring a variety of tribes. Along with these ceremonies there will be storytelling, crafts demonstrations, totem teachings and more interesting entertainments and history for the whole family.
Also new are the Tahian Showcase on Saturday as 4 PM, a Basque Showcase w/a participatory dance Saturday at 1 PM in the Armory and an Oinkari performance (I can’t tell you about this one. You’ll have to show up) on Sunday at 11:40 AM in the Exhibition Hall. Several new dance workshops are Dances of the Arab World on Saturday at 1 PM, Peruvian Scissor Dance Monday at noon and West African Dance Monday at 2:30 PM. In addition and expanded version of the Native American Memorial Day Ceremony will happen on Monday and include Drumming, PowWow dancers, a color guard and Native American speakers.
There’s more new stuff and recent additions that many of you haven’t caught up with yet and all this and more awaits you after you and your guests pass the gate/donation boxes and enter the carnival!
THE WIDE WORLD OF SHOWCASES
If I reported on every excellent showcase at Folklife this year it would take you until Sunday of the Festival to finish reading. I’ll simply wet your appetite with a few really good ones from several cultures. We’ve partnered with community groups such as Hearth Music, Seattle Living Room Shows and Underwood Stables to present 5 Indie Showcases: The Seattle Living Room Showcase is on Saturday at the Fountain Lawn Stage, Underwood Stables is Sunday at Vera as is Heavy Harmonies and Folk Redefined (always an interesting and sometimes controversial topic. Hooray! Let’s talk about it!), while Ear To the Ground is on Monday at Fountain Lawn.
Other fine showcases among many dozen are Fisher Poets On the Road on Sunday at the Folklife Cafe from 6-9 PM, South Indian Classical Dance on Monday, 1 PM in the Center Theatre, Arab, Persian and Central Asian Dance, Sunday at 7 PM in the Exhibition Hall (International Dance Stage), Songs From The Mountains on the Back Porch Stage Sunday at 2PM, Maidens of the Sea and Maritime Showcases back to back on Saturday from 1-6 PM on the Traditional Stage, the Single Man Blues Showcase Monday at 3 PM at the Back Porch, the Bulgarian Showcase on Saturday at 11AM in the Bagley Theatre, Vietnamese on Sunday at 11 AM in Cornish, The Filthy Fingers United Showcase on Monday at 4 PM in Vera, and also on Monday at 7:30 PM on the Fountain Lawn will be Out With A Bang: A Big Brass Showcase.
And there are several dozen more of these showcases featuring every continent and too many countries to count without a calculator. So much to enjoy, so much to learn, so much to share. And as above, you can find it all on May 1st when the entire schedule is posted on-line at www.nwfolklife.org.
SO WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO AREN”T IN THE FOCUS OR A SHOWCASE??
Yes, by all means don’t forget to frequent some of the many performances that are solo or small bands who are simply there out of love of music and the culture, are almost always non-professional (though many of them are of high professional quality), and to whom Folklife is one of the very few times they get to show their music to the public.
There are thousands of players and dancers who follow the time honored custom of simply playing music because it’s one the finest ways to enjoy life and connect with other people that there is. This is their moment, they’ve got the goods and we should take some time out for them. The good stuff and good feelings are everywhere, and at Folklife you don’t even have to do much searching to find them!
SO WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS??
You bet we want the kids!! The Discovery Zone will be in the Next 50 Plaza and open from 11 AM-7 PM all 4 days for your entertainment and picnic pleasure with the Grand Opening of Seattle’s new playground at Noon on Friday. This new area will offer a 35-foot climbing tower, colorful Labyrinth, ADA-accessible Carousel, child-inspired musical instruments, listening stations. sound swings and play mounds. Designed by celebrated Northwest artists Trimpin and Judith Caldwell, this area will be a place for safe child friendly entertainment that is totally in keeping with the Folklife and Seattle Center mission and purpose.
In addition to the new area we will also have Instrument Play and Presentations featuring instruments from around the world for children to test out, Lessons and practice of drawing w/free drawing supplies, Rhythm sessions for kids, Making Their Own Mosaic w/recycled materials, Toy Boat Building, Fiber Arts, Surface Elements (A showcase of Graffiti Forms) and more.
There will also be many performances from some of the most creative and friendly musicians and storytellers covering the usual wide variety of culture: Paul “Che Oke Ten” Wagner, Crow Valley String Band, Shake It Up Stories, The Canote Brothers, The Somali Youth and Family Club, The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project, Mikey Mike the Rad Scientist and Afro Cuban and Puerto Rican Music are less than half of what will be on stage in the Discovery Zone. Your kids (and grandkids) will love it so bring that picnic basket, kick back and let them enjoy while you take some time off.
SO WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MENTION DANCING?
I’m glad you asked. Of course there will be dancing all over the yard for all 4 days. There are 90 hours of participatory dance at the Roadhouse (what else?), the Armory Court and elsewhere as well as several dozen demonstrations ( primarily in the Exhibition Hall), and both celebrating cultures from all over the planet. It’s not a reach to state that Folklife wouldn’t be near as meaningful without our dances and possibly wouldn’t even exist! We know that large amounts of our Northwest Folk and folk-related family find their bliss on the dance floor and we’ll always aim to comply with your needs as much possible.
And of course that enables you to also hear some of our most beautiful and rhythmic music’s that are the engine that propels the feet! Hey, if you can get it 2 hits in 1 why not just go for it! If I don’t see you at a stage I’ll look for you on the floor!
SO CAN I PLAY MY OWN MUSIC EVEN IF I’M NOT ON THE SCHEDULE?
YES, YES, YES!!! We want you to do exactly that! Instrument check will be open from early to late each day so you can bring that instrument and be free of it when need be. There are more than enough spaces all over the Center where you can gather w/friends (and eventual new friends) and celebrate any of the sounds that move you and create beautiful and energetic sounds that will captivate passersby without creating a nuisance for any of the stages. Friends simply getting together to play is the essence of our culture and only adds to the overall atmosphere. NO, you don’t have to get accepted to a stage to play! Just crash the party and party down!
HEY, I WANT TO LEARN SOMETHING TO!
Of course you do. Why be stuck in the same old place w/your music or dance or knowledge of musical/dance culture or business? A complete gathering is when you gain something and give something. That’s why we always have a full schedule of workshops and panel concerts from Saturday through Monday that cover a very wide range of topics dealing with artistry, creativity, business acumen and so forth. The presenters are knowledgeable and deadicated, the information is meaningful and receiving it can only add to your overall festival experience. This has happened to me at Folklife more than once and can happen to you as well. Check it all out at the Website starting May 1st.
SO WHAT MAKES OUR FABULOUS FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL HAPPEN IN SUCH A WONDERFUL WAY!
You didn’t ask me this because you’re (usually) too busy having a fine time at the festival, but I feel the need to tell you anyway. What makes our festival happen, and in such a wonderful way, are your volunteering and financial contributions! This is basically a free festival, but nothing is actually free! Everything has a price in some way, shape or form and a huge budget is required to put on this very large free festival each Memorial Day Weekend. We aren’t tied in to major corporations who would control our every move, but are dependent upon a few businesses who believe in us and the donations from our members and many other true believers.
This is why we have donation boxes at each gate and around the festival and also deploy volunteers to sell pins and buttons at the stages. We also are pleased when any of you join Friends of Folklife on an annual basis which keeps the cash coming in and gives you access to all information early as well as an occasional discount for a paid event. Because we obviously can’t afford to pay every volunteer (We have a very small paid staff) we recruit hundreds of volunteers to perform thousands of shifts for each festival. And this is more than a job or a contribution.
Folklife is a family (at least that’s always been my take on it) and I find that the more energy I put out the better time I have of it. It gets me closer to the action and allows me to interact with my Folklife Family and meet new people with whom I may then form relationships that may have little to do with the festival itself. After all, once you meet someone in one situation you may discover that you have a lot more in common. It happens all the time and it can happen to you.
There’s an old cliché that says, “Love makes the world go round”. It sound good but actually money and labor make the world go round and love is what makes the ride worthwhile. By donating and volunteering at Folklife you inject yourself further into the love stream and can enjoy the whole package. And why not? Don’t we all deserve it?!
IT’s NOT ALL MUSIC AND DANCE! WE HAVE INTERNATIONAL CRAFTS AND FOODS TO!
THAT’S RIGHT! You’ll find crafts booths all over the grounds (and especially on or right around the Crafts Pathway) and these creations are the work of many full and part-time crafts people who create their various goods from scratch and have become experts at what they do. All of these crafts are functional in everyday life or highly entertaining or both and come from the hearts of each crafter just as much as any of the musicians or dancers that you’ll see.
And like the music and dances, they will cover a wide range of styles, looks, and usage, so that there’s bound to be something you can take home and have as a part of your house, or as a gift for that Birthday or graduation and so forth. Of course these creations aren’t free like the music/dance but will last a lot longer and remind you of the great time you had as well as providing much needed support for these valuable and deadicated members of our community.
The food booths don’t have trouble getting customers (So what else is new?) but if you can, rather than bring something you always eat, why not stand in line for one of the many culinary treats that come from our so-called foreign friends (What’s really foreign anyway?) and get into the full flavor (pun intended) of the festival?
SO IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE?
Well, I can’t think of anything right now that would add to what’s above. You might bring light and heavy clothes if it looks like you’ll need them, you might want to arrive early enough to find close parking if there is still such a thing, and who knows what else. At any rate the community will gather in the thousands at Seattle Center from Friday, May 22nd through Monday, May 25th for our annual very multi-cultural celebration and the beat thing any of you can add to it will be yourselves. See you there!
(Percy Hilo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-784-0378. All comments welcome!)